Digital Spaces for Teaching Multilingual Writing

We recently published Creating Digital Literacy Spaces for Multilingual Writers by Joel Bloch. In this post the author explains what we can expect from the book.

As the internet has developed from a place to exchange photos of cute cats to one for new forms of literacy and new ways of sharing them, the design of digital spaces for teaching multilingual writing has increased in importance. My book discusses not just technology but literacy as well, based on my years of teaching writing. I address many of the controversies in literacy, the use of technology, writing pedagogies, and teacher training.

The book first discusses the connections between technology and literacy pedagogies and then provides a chapter on blogging, reflecting on the impact of technology and its evolution for teaching writing. The chapter on MOOCs and flipped learning addresses not only technological issues but also pedagogical concerns that teachers address whether they use technology or not, on the design of the classroom and the roles of teachers and students. The chapter on multimodality and digital storytelling addresses some of the issues existing throughout the field of multilingual writing, particularly in academic writing classrooms. Digital stories can be incorporated into these courses, individually or collaboratively created, depending upon the pedagogical goals of the teachers.

This book is teacher-centric, placing teachers at the center of the questions of design as well as providing a way to respond to controversies in teaching writing, such as translingualism, since they support using language varieties, stories, and the rhetorical forms and artifacts that students bring to the classroom. In my experiences as a teacher, reviewer, and editor, I have seen the disruptive roles of technology on all levels of teaching. Publishing incorporates almost every opportunity and controversy in the field of teaching writing: where to publish and in what language, as well as issues related to choices of English, writer identity, and knowledge creation in the publishing space. The internet has supported expanding places to publish and the connections between writers and readers as well as the issues regarding open access and associated copyright and intellectual property issues. Such openness also has created problems regarding the so-called “predatory” journals and forcing writers to decide on appropriate places to publish.

Most of the book was written before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it addresses many of the issues the pandemic raised. The chapters on MOOCs and flipped learning discuss both positive and negative concerns with technology and online education. Publishing has been greatly impacted by the need to publish related to the pandemic. Personally, it has greatly expanded my access to professional development. I have participated or listened in on meetings held where I could never physically attend.

Teachers incur the same issues with technology that society faces: privacy, access, inclusivity. One of the messages of the book is that the process will inevitably be messy. When we switched to online teaching, I tried adapting flipped learning to my publishing class, but my end of semester evaluations indicated I had left out some of the social factors that I had written about. The end of the pandemic will not mean that digital literacies will fade. Here in the United States we don’t know what the “new normal” will mean.

William Gibson, the science fiction writer, once said that the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed. Students and teachers both face disruption from traditional and newer technologies and the growing anxieties that all disruptions bring. Another book on digital literacy may look very different; it may not even be a book. However, this book still discusses the concerns and anxieties teachers and students may face with new technologies that have disrupted teaching and learning to write.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts edited by Lisya Seloni and Sarah Henderson Lee.

Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing

As his book Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing is published this week we asked Joel Bloch to tell us about his interest in plagiarism and intellectual property.

On the popular American television show, CSI, there was an episode where a woman was accused of murdering her boyfriend because he had cheated on her. She denied that his infidelity was any motive for murder. However, later it was discovered that he had plagiarized something she written, and had questioned whether her work was original in the first place. At that point, she confessed that she had killed in a fit of rage when she had discovered what he had done. The fact that plagiarism can be more a motive for murder than infidelity should come as no surprise to anyone who has dealt with plagiarism over these years, particularly for those who have dealt with non-native English speakers.

Joel Bloch and the cute cat

The question of whether students from different cultures have different attitudes towards plagiarism, as well as towards the more general uses of intellectual property, has been at the center of an often heated debate over how culture should be viewed and how it may affect how an individual thinks and writes. This debate has intensified with the development of the World Wide Web and its support of what Ethan Zuckerman has called “The Cute Cat Theory,” which highlights the ability of the web to support the publication and sharing of photos of cats, as well as every form of intellectual property.

My own interest in plagiarism and intellectual property came almost accidently when I innocently gave a group of Chinese students an article to read on plagiarism and then saw how angry they became. Today there is not a day passing where there is not some scandal somewhere in the world involving plagiarism. The publication of every such instance often brings out a debate over how such incidents reflect the decline of the academy, of journalistic standards, and often of the society itself.

Intellectual property law has raised such passions. The US has just gone through another battle over what restrictions should be put on the use of the Internet in order to curb the scourge of the illicit use of intellectual property. This battle pitted one set of lobbyists against another, developed countries vs. developing countries,  media companies against Silicon Valley, adults against the young, and even Northern California vs. Southern California. Writing teachers are often thrown into the controversy with little preparation because of the background of their students and perhaps more importantly, the very nature of their work. They are often told what the restrictions are but rarely what their rights are.

For the last ten years, I have been teaching a second language writing course that deals primarily with plagiarism, about which I have written extensively in this book. The goal of the course is to not only help students avoid falling into the trap of plagiarism but also to understand the debate over these issues regarding the use of intellectual property. After all, most writing, particularly in the university, is about the use of intellectual property and therefore the rules for using it has seemed to me to be a natural topic around which to center a course. I wrote Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing in response to these controversies and to help writing teachers understand the importance of their contribution to this debate.  Although I clearly fall on the side of those who are looking for changes in traditional attitudes towards plagiarism and intellectual property, I hope this book helps teachers involve themselves in this debate and become advocates for whatever is best for their students.

For further information on plagiarism please see Joel’s websites: and